Snowboarding and the Pentax 645D

31 03 2011

This week I was booked to shoot some marketing material for Canada Olympic Park. As some of you know I shoot a fair amount of Medium Format, even in sports. On Tuesday The Camera Store gave me the Pentax 645D to try out. They wanted to shoot a behind the scenes video of sports and “Medium Format” cameras.

The Pentax performed great all day. I was used to the focusing speed on the H series from Hasselblad and this new Pentax was a real treat as far as focusing speed goes.

Unlike the Hasselblad digitals and Phase One backs that both shoot in 16bit RAW, the Pentax shoots 14bit, similar to a Nikon Raw format. I was initially a little concerned about this, for large prints. After working a couple of the files in PS, these 14bit files are stellar.

There is a large selection of both focal plane and leaf shutter glass available for the 645D. This is a nice little bonus, as my Hasselblad system has a very limited number of lenses available. The Hassy is also only “leaf” shutter, so you are limited up to 1/800th of a sec for shutter speeds. The Pentax 645D’s ability to accept both leaf and focal plane means you are able to jump up to 1/4000th if the job requires it.

For about half the price of an entry level Hasselblad or Phase system, the Pentax is a killer choice. I can definitely see this camera making a larger presence on the lifestyle and wedding circuit. The 645D has the ability to give you that unparalleled fall off and D.O.F. in a medium format (not to mention it shoots a native 18×24 @ 300dpi).

We shot for about 4hrs on Tuesday and the Pentax battery barely dropped a bar. Usually when you’re shooting winter sports the batteries in the bigger cameras take a pretty big hit. This camera held up throughout the shoot.

For those of you only running laptops to do your editing and worry that a digital medium format file will bog down your system to no end… Don’t. The files are a modest 50-70mb each, and being 14bit, they won’t murder your machine’s RAM, whether you use PS, Lightroom or Capture One.

Overall, we had a great day of shooting at C.O.P. and I really enjoyed shooting with the Pentax 645D.

Feel free to leave a comment if you have any other questions on my experience with the system.

Thanks have to go out to the crew from The Camera Store (Jordan & Chris) for filming this, Josh Duncan and his crew for throwing themselves off the tables and in the pipe all day, C.O.P. for always dealing with my insane requests for gear on the hill, and a huge thanks to that little man Peter Olson for always putting up with the insane assistant’s duties I throw at him.






10 responses

1 04 2011
RJ Hidson

Very cool! I’ve been interested in the Pentax 645D so it’s good to see it used in an unusual setting for that type of gear.

3 04 2011

I was very impressed… I had heard it shot more like a DSLR than a typical 645 camera, but didn’t believe it. Now i’ve had some experience with it, I can honestly say it out performs my Hasselblad H Series on the sports front.

I’ve set up a side by side in early July for a comparison with the Hasselblad H4D-40, Leica S2 and Pentax 645 in a more traditional setting. We’ll be shooting a vehicle in an outdoor setting with a full lighting set up.

I’m very interested to see how it stands up to the others…



3 04 2011
Mark Altosaar

Hey Ryan,
Enjoyed the video and the shots look great.

In the first area when you were using PocketWizards to trigger the studio flashes, what shutter speed does the Pentax allow you to sync at?

The photos you took look like the froze the action really well – but if you are limited by the sync speed of the camera (normally 1/200) wouldn’t that give you a blurry shot?

3 04 2011

On a typical syncs speed of 1/160th – 1/250th, you would definitely see motion blur. These sync speeds are based on a focal plane shutter. I used the older Pentax 75mm and 135mm leaf shutter lenses for a sync speed of 1/500th, which allows you to really freeze the action. The ability to mount either a focal plane or leaf shutter lens gives you some great flexibility in shooting different subjects/disciplines.

I did shoot a couple frames at the normal focal plane lens syncs speed for comparison… I’ll post a comparison and you’ll really be able to see the difference in the 2 speeds.

Hope that helps!


4 04 2011
Steven Kornreich

Nice job without the 645D.
I purchased one about 2 months ago, when they started shipping in the US.
Funny, I live 5 minutes from a great Half Pipe in Park City Utah, and would never even consider taking out the 645D for images, next season I think I will give it a go. This year I was shooting half Pipe with A Nikon D3s, You can see some images on my website. I purchased the 645D for landscape work.
Been struggling a little finding “good” copies of older lenses, but for shooting out in the cold weather the 645D rally shines. I use to own the original Hasselblad H3D-39 which I loved until I moved to the mountains and cold weather. If the temp. dropped bellow 20 degrees, sometimes the H3D would not even turn on.
645D on the other hand using it in 7 degree weather and working perfect.

Question, Which 300mm lens where you using? the 5.6 FA or the 4.0 FA version?


4 04 2011

Heya Steven,


We initially had the same problem with one of the older leaf shutter 75mm lenses… The timing in the lens was way off. Had to toss it out of the bag. Shot the rest of the high sync speed with the 135mm.

We were using the 300mm 5.6. The Camera Store has a 300mm f4 FA in stock, but we wanted to show that even the 5.6 gives you the fall off and compression in medium format. That f/5.6 lens was a great performer through that pipe session.

I shot the world cup here in -37deg. I got maybe 20photos with my Hasselblad H series battery. But at that temp, even my D3 Batts were getting worked after about 500 shots.

The 645D is definitely a workhorse. I’m looking forward to trying it out in different settings and seeing how it stands up to the other medium format digital backs.


4 04 2011
steven kornreich

Thanks fore the info Ryan,
which Camera Store has a 300mm F4 FA in stock if I may ask?

4 04 2011

Heya Steven,


They probably won’t have it listed on their site, but I was in there earlier today, and they still had one in stock, although, oddly enough the 5.6 they had in stock sold just a couple days after we posted that video.

If you’re interested in it you can give them a shout at 403-234-9935 Talk to Chris Nicholls or Jordan Drake.



4 04 2011
Steven Kornreich

I saw the lens on the website way out of my price range I have the fa 300 5.6 now which I paid $500. US for I was just curios
They had it listed for 4000 or so for a lens that’s been sitting on a shelf for years now. I think the Fa line was discontinued 5 years ago

7 05 2011
Jess Martin

I love your work! And would live to meet sometime! I have an intersting promo idea you might be interested in! My sites


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: